Riding a wave of acquisitions and upbeat financial news, Genzyme Corp. will start construction next month on its largest research facility, a six-story glass-walled laboratory in Framingham that the company hopes will be the first American research lab to win a "green building"
Riding a wave of acquisitions and upbeat financial news, Genzyme Corp. will start construction next month on its largest research facility, a six-story glass-walled laboratory in Framingham that the company hopes will be the first American research lab to win a "green building" certification.
The building is part of a $210 million manufacturing and research expansion for the Cambridge biotechnology company, which is also adding new labs in Waltham and two bioreactors to its flagship factory along the Allston bank of the Charles River.
The Framingham lab, scheduled to open in 2007, will initially be home to about 200 scientists who are now scattered in other buildings on Genzyme's scientific campus in Framingham. It could eventually hold more than 300.
"The company's doing very well," said Rich Gregory, Genzyme's head of research. "We're extremely pressed for space in Framingham, and the company has a real commitment to Massachusetts, so we're expanding here."
Though not as large as some science buildings in the Boston area, where labs routinely occupy a half-million square feet of space, Genzyme said it aims to distinguish its new building by incorporating some of the environmentally friendly features used in Genzyme Center, its corporate headquarters in Cambridge. Last month, it became the largest American office building to win the top rating from the US Green Building Council.
Designing an eco-friendly laboratory poses special challenges, said lead architect Henry S. Reeder of ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge Inc.
The labs are not easily made power-efficient, he said. They require massive systems for circulating and filtering air, more interior light than is typical, and appliances that are rarely needed in a standard office building.
"You really can't cut down the amount of energy that a minus-80 freezer uses," said Gregory.
To increase light without driving up energy costs, the building will include exterior "sunscreen shelves" that shade its windows in the heat of the day while bouncing natural light indoors. It also will feature an elaborate rooftop heat-transfer system to warm outside air. "In the old days, you just sucked it in, heated it, and blew it out," said Reeder.
The building's scientists will focus on early-phase research in genetic diseases, cancer, kidney disease, and other areas key to Genzyme.
As biotech stocks have surged in the past several months, Genzyme's sales growth and promising results on experimental drugs have helped propel the 24-year-old company to a record market value of over $18 billion, making it the largest biotechnology company in Massachusetts, and second only to $19.7 billion medical-device maker Boston Scientific in the life-sciences sector.
At a time when pharmaceutical companies are struggling to develop promising new products, many companies and investors have been plowing more money into the Boston area.
That message wasn't lost on state biotech leaders, who hailed Genzyme's news yesterday as a validation of Massachusetts' argument that the state's relatively high development and housing costs are more than offset by the area's extensive biotech and medical expertise.
"To be cheek-by-jowl with that concentration of PhDs is something that's invaluable to them and very hard to duplicate outside of Massachusetts," said Thomas M. Finneran, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News